Hard water, rusty taps, musty rooms: heaven on earth, if you were coming from the steamy city. People without cabins might head to a big resort today, but once upon a time there were thousands of tiny places that served the summer traveler. Their history was lost and uncollected until Ren Holland took an interest.
“I taught art at Little Falls High School for over 30 years, then when I retired I wrote a book called ‘The Edge of Itasca,’ about the people who explored and settled the area. When writing the first book, I was surprised how few people knew of the resorts on the lake where I was raised; there were six when I grew up and two left, and people who lived there didn’t know what had come and gone.”
One of the resorts that came and went was Holland’s Resort, which Holland’s folks bought in ’35. He grew up digging worms, helping guests when they docked after a day of fishing. If you’re thinking “resort” means 20 nice places arrayed along the edge of the lake, well, no.
“It had three cabins. We had a friend who had one cabin and called it a resort.” he chuckled. “The Department of Health defined a resort as having five or more cabins, though.” By that standard there were nearly 4,000 places to park your family for a summer stay in the 1950s, and one of the ways a place stood out was its name. Imagine you’re heading down a two-lane in unfamiliar terrain, looking for a sign by a road that leads into the woods. Holland lists off some of the names you’d see:
“Lucky Strike. Clark Gables. Mosquito Heights,” he chuckles. Well, honesty in advertising, perhaps. “Laf-a-lot Cabins, I-o-way, Oma-Haws Cabins, E-Z Duzit.” Lots of peculiar spelling, he notes: “Igo-Inn. In-we-go. Dunnrovin, Dunn Working, Do-Come-Inn, Idle Hour Cottage. Picture Window Resort — that was a new thing. The cabins all had these plate glass windows to see the lake.
“Back of the Moon, named after a place in a movie that starred Cornel Wilde.” (“Leave Her to Heaven,” which — yikes — featured a murder on a lake.) “There was Camp Cool, Camp Deelite — some of the names were related to fresh air, because early tourists attributed good health to fresh air and pines. Breezy Point. Cool Ridge.”
His research yielded much more than a compendium of amusing names; he wrote a book, “The Early Resorts of Minnesota,” detailing the early years of Minnesota’s tourism industry.
After his parents sold the place, did it remain Holland’s Resort?
“The people who bought the resort called it the Deep in Debt Resort, and a few years later that was the end of that.”
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